The Experimentation Station
I have returned. This darned illness is in its final stages of life and so, to celebrate, have a post from the Hell Butterfly!
First up, there is a new, shiny page on Jigokucho just for you lovelies. I’ll leave the content a surprise, just to keep you on your toes. Check it out if you want.
For the bulk of this post, I felt like talking about experimentation in writing. I have generally stuck to what I know, what I feel comfortable with, in writing. Sentences/stanzas that just flow in the way I would always use language whenever I got creative. But lately I have decided to try some experimentation in writing.
I have jameswilliaml to thank for a large part of this, as his recommendation of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace has nudged me into a different way of thinking when it comes to writing creatively. I am only 33 pages into the 981 that make up the version I have, but already it is fascinating, both in content and structure. Wallace is so eloquent in his choice of words. I find his lexical decisions so interesting and highly recommend this to others as, though a potentially complex read, it is worth it for the wake-up call that language is so much more than what we think it can be.
A comment in my recent essay informed me that I use a lot or run-on lines, which I didn’t think was a problem, but my tutor picked me up on it nonetheless. This got me thinking – if I do it this often in my essays (to the point that it’s affecting my grade) is it a trait of mine that occurs in my creative pieces too? I believe it is. I can’t help it, sometimes I just find run-on lines too good to pass up. I have nothing against short sentences, but I just like to be able to keep an idea flowing if it needs the space to roam free. So I went through some of my writing and yes, I use a lot of run-on lines. This is one thing I experimented with.
I also took a look at the themes I look at and saw some familiar faces reappearing, and decided to pick up on subjects that I hadn’t previously tackled. In part this was influenced by my Gothic module. The essay I have chosen to do next is the relationship between eroticism and vampirism. This got me thinking, in the roundabout way my brain works, that in a sense, vampire bites can be easily considered like rape. An act committed without the consent of one or more participants, right? Or something to that effect – I don’t have an O.E.D. to hand. So, using both the idea as previously mentioned of shorter line lengths, and a new, unchallenged subject matter I wrote a short paragraph.
Desire sledge-hammered him. She rippled beneath his touch. Warm, lovely. Delicious. Her eyes were wide, blue, terrified. He panted against her skin. One hand on her dress, one at her jugular. Beneath his hold she writhed. Her cries were his ecstasy. Again his passions were inflamed. Her lips; parted, ruby red, and screaming. His own now curled back in tender ravishment. Two straight lines of pearly whites; sharp, glistening, hungry. Terror drowned her eyes. Lust darkened his. He closed his fingers round her throat. The broken shrieks erupted, ripping through air and body. And on her flesh he feasted. Rapture stained her crimson. Hot and delectable it ran. Between his teeth, on his tongue, burning his throat. She made him drunk as he drained life from her to satisfy his thirst. No longer did she scream. No longer did she cry. No longer was she.
The success of this paragraph is still a big question – I think it went well as an experiment in changing up my writing style, but whether it works as a stand alone piece is another matter. I’ll leave you to be the judge of that.
More specifically to the subject of Wallace’s Infinite Jest, particularly his complex word choices, I wrote another short piece (to be added to at a later date if it is agreed the newer style works). This time I thought about what words I used, and how they flowed on the tongue. I find in my longer work, especially my novel chapters, that I use pauses a lot and so sometimes sentences can drag on too long, or stop at awkward times when really they should be given time to fit, Lego brick-esk into the natural lilt of the human voice. In my shorter works I do often manage to achieve this, but I find I have to concentrate rather hard to do this naturally and constantly. I like to think of The Odyssey here, with “Dawn spreading out her fingertips of rose”. Perhaps for a shorter piece I find it easier to keep up this poetic/lyrical ‘bounce’ as I know I won’t have to write another several thousand words in the same pattern (one example of this is: “The starkness of the monochrome expanse above embraced the silver birches of the frontline. Together, they enveloped the violet of the foxglove field, producing a melancholy fog that clung to everything in sight” from my short story ‘The Orange Foxglove’).
As an experiment to change up my word choices and imagery, the following paragraph was produced:
“Oh, why must he be so eloquent, May?” The black plastic box, as big as next door’s St Bernard and about as useless, squatted on a wood table; groaning and whistling its attempt at half-decent television. German chat-show hosts on a weekend, Japanese prank shows at 2am, and occasionally re-runs of Bradford Academy. This was tonight’s luxury. Square-eyed and drooling, Evelyn was entranced. Her face, inches from the screen, mimicked the lead actor’s to perfection; the twitch in the left eyebrow that reverberated from the flicker at the corner of the mouth, the faultlessness of intonation as the whispered voice of Shane was echoed in my sister’s veneration.
I am not as convinced that this experiment worked – however maybe I was comparing myself too closely with Wallace. Other than the final sentence I don’t feel as though I stretched myself as much as I could have with word choice and natural flow. Suffice to say that this needs work, and I will be spending a lot more time on this in future.
So don’t forget, language is much more flexible than you might think. I challenge you to try experimentation in your work. Take a look at the way you write – can you spot anything you do often? Traits that you have in your writing that maybe you didn’t know you had? If you don’t write creatively, perhaps try a different blog style. I’m interested to see whether anybody else finds this helpful – I’m certainly now fascinated with some of the ways I can change my style.
And for those who don’t like to label their creative pieces as work, I shall allow the great Julian Morrow to wrap up this post:
“Do you really think that what we do is work? […] I should call it the most glorious kind of play“